When we were newlyweds nearly 13 years ago, my husband had some really firm expectations.
In particular, he insisted that we would go on a date every Saturday night. Not that I was opposed to the idea (I mean, who would be?), but was it really necessary to make this practice non-negotiable? Especially at the time, when we didn’t have kids and spent most of our evenings together anyway?
Looking back, I am so thankful for his wisdom and his dedication to setting good habits in our relationship, from the very beginning.
Since then, a lot has changed: kids, careers, friends and location—in addition to the ups and downs of everyday life. But our marriage has held together firmly, in part because of the habits we’ve clung to.
We’ve taken classes, read books and had a lot of conversations with other couples—and I have seen a similar pattern in healthy Christian marriages: they are intentional with their relationship habits.
And even if you and your spouse have differing beliefs, these habits are broad enough that anyone can apply them.
6 Must-Have Habits for a Healthy Christian Marriage
1. Dating Each Other
Ever since we said “I do,” my husband and I have faithfully set aside Saturday evenings for each other.
You may be thinking through a lot of excuses about why you can’t have a weekly date. It’s impossible with our schedule. We don’t have childcare options. Our budget is super tight. I’ve been in each of those scenarios.
Setting aside a weekly time is not easy. But that’s kind of the point; you make an effort set aside the time because if you don’t, then it definitely won’t happen!
Are the times we compromise? Of course. But those are the exceptions and not the rule; by and large, the expectation in our household is that Saturday night is date night.
The key to making a weekly date work is being creative. When you can’t do it on a Saturday night, have an early morning coffee together instead. If one of you is traveling, schedule a video chat at whatever hour you can. If you can’t have a 3-hour date, have a 20-minute one. If you’re broke, light candles, pop popcorn and sit in front of the fireplace after the kids are in bed.
Mindset is important when dating your spouse. Devote your date time to simply being present and affectionate for a set period. Instead of sitting on the couch and mindlessly scrolling your phones while the TV is on, turn your devices off, put together some special treats, snuggle up and watch something together that you’ve both been looking forward to.
Of course, I don’t recommend watching a movie together as the only thing you do on your dates. If you’re ready for a much-needed date night out, do these 6 things.
2. Daily Connection and Affection
In addition to setting aside time for a weekly date night, it’s important to have some form of daily connection. My husband and I have the expectation that we get 30 minutes of alone time together after the kids go to bed each night.
I’ve come to value this time as life has gotten very busy. When we’re dealing with kids and work and other commitments all day, there really isn’t any other time when I can simply talk and show some affection to the most important human in my life!
Sometimes it’s enough to simply unwind and relax—but if a screen is on, the rule is that we’re enjoying it together. This is also a time when we can talk to each other about whatever is on our minds, without interruption or distraction. And—this part is important—we take this time to be physically affectionate. This doesn’t necessarily mean sex (although it’s more likely to go that way!)
You can also connect at other times of day, especially if you have a different schedule than we do. Some ideas include:
- Talking over a meal
- Talking over the phone when you can’t see each other in person
- Giving a kiss whenever you exit or enter the home
- Going on a walk and holding hands
3. Regular Intimacy
It’s so easy to slip into roommate status with your spouse rather than being lovers, especially during seasons when you’re busy and exhausted.
But those are the seasons when it’s even more important to make sex a priority.
How often couples in healthy marriages have sex is up for debate and depends on a lot of factors. However, if you can’t really remember when you last connected in this way, it has probably been too long.
This is a sensitive and complicated topic, but if your marriage is lacking in the intimacy department, that’s all the more reason to work on it!
If you know sex is a weak spot in your marriage, these resources can point you in the right direction:
4. Consistent, Honest Communication
Obviously, couples in a healthy Christian marriage need to communicate. Parenting, schedules, extended family, finances, health and sex are just a few of the topics that can create a lot of tension when you and your spouse aren’t on the same page.
No couple is perfect at communication. But there is a tool that can make it easier.
Years ago, someone advised that we have a weekly marriage meeting. This was an opportunity for us to not only go over our schedule/budget/household logistics, but to check in with the state of the relationship. (This was to be done outside of our date night.) It was a time to share something positive the other person was doing, as well as any emotional needs each of us was having.
A structured time forced us to take a moment to stop and think through what we wanted to say to each other. Neither one of us is especially good at identifying and expressing our emotions in the moment. This gave us a calm and safe place to work through them and build our emotional intimacy in the process.
We could also work through any conflicts we were having without being reactive. It’s a lot easier to compromise and be honest when you’re not in the middle of a fight!
It has been a few years since we’ve stuck to this meeting to as a formal event, but it helped us establish healthy communication skills. We still try to connect for at least a few minutes each weekend to talk about household logistics, and if we need more time, we make it.
5. Seeking Outside Help
It’s common practice in churches these days to have pre-marriage counseling, but how many couples are getting outside help a year, five years, ten years later and beyond?
If you think the tips I’ve shared so far are wise, I can assure you that my husband and I can’t take credit for them. We have received a tremendous amount of input over the years that has saved us from heartache.
Help from outside the marriage can come in several forms. We’ve benefited from reading books together and going to classes—not just on marriage, but on finances and parenting. We’ve also had a lot of sit-down conversations with mature couples who have talked us through the dynamics of our relationship.
While we don’t take in nearly as much information as we did a decade ago, we still seek advice when we can’t work something out.
Recently I was wrestling with an inexplicable feeling of distance from my husband. I had a sit-down conversation with a mentor who knows us well. She helped me identify what was going on in my heart so I could be more honest about my feelings. I would never have figured it out without her help!
Christian couple’s counseling is also a valuable resource if you’re continually hitting walls. If you’re not getting helpful advice, keep searching and asking for it!
6. Daily Prayer
In an era when divorce and extramarital sexual relationships are so common, we have to fight hard for our marriages. And one of our best weapons is prayer.
Praying together daily with your spouse builds intimacy. It puts each of you in a vulnerable position. Sometimes when I’m having difficulty putting my feelings into words when talking with my husband, it somehow all comes gushing out in prayer with him.
It is also very difficult to be hostile with someone who is by your side as you’re having a conversation with God!
Furthermore, it’s important to pray for your husband and your marriage. Even if your husband isn’t interested in praying with you, that won’t prevent you from praying for him! Ask God for wisdom and for guidance; put you and your husband’s weaknesses before him; be honest about your fears and emotions.
What healthy habits do you have in your marriage? Are there any of these you would like to add?